Variations on a Theme: Three Olumeye by Olowe of Ise

Dallas, TX, August 15, 2005—The Dallas Museum of Art’s debut this fall of Variations on a Theme: Three “Olumeye” by Olowe of Ise will explore innovativeness and genius in the art of Olowe of Ise (c.1875–1938), an African artist and tradition-based sculptor to Yoruba kings in Nigeria, and challenge the widely held belief that African art is anonymous.

The exhibition will feature the Museum’s recent acquisition kneeling female figure with bowl, called an olumeye. The piece was created by Olowe, recognized as one of the greatest Yoruba artists, who were themselves known as the most prolific artisans in Africa.

Theorizing that Olowe redesigned the olumeye, possibly creating an entirely new form, the exhibition compares the Dallas Museum of Art’s sculpture to one carved by another Yoruba master, Agbonbiofe of Efon-Alaiye, which represents the conventional approach. Olowe revisited his own design and carved two more olumeye, also included in the exhibition, which show his own variations on the traditional style.

“The Variations on a Theme exhibition is a rare opportunity to disprove some widely held misconceptions about African art,” said Roslyn Adele Walker, Senior Curator of the Arts of Africa, the Pacific, and the Americas and The Margaret McDermott Curator of African Art of the Dallas Museum of Art. “It refutes the idea that African art is anonymous and that tradition-based artists do not innovate or challenge convention.”

African artists were far from anonymous in their own culture, though today traditional African art pieces are identified simply by the related art style or the name of the regional or ethnic group to which they belonged, Dr. Walker added. Variations on a Theme demonstrates these artists’ astonishing technical skill in sculpture, their unique style of carving and Olowe’s individual interpretation of Yoruba art.

Variations on a Theme: Three “Olumeye” by Olowe of Ise is on exhibit in Focus Gallery II at the Dallas Museum of Art from Sept. 18, 2005 to Jan. 15, 2006.

The exhibition is made possible by The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., the National Museum of African Art, the Walt Disney-Paul Tishman Collection of African Art, and the collection of Jane and John Pemberton III.

About the Dallas Museum of Art
The Dallas Museum of Art, established in 1903, has an encyclopedic collection of more than 23,000 works, spanning 5,000 years of history and representing all media, with renowned strengths in the arts of the ancient Americas, Africa, Indonesia, and South Asia; European and American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; and American and international contemporary art.

The Dallas Museum of Art is the anchor of the Dallas Arts District and, in all its vitality, serves as a cultural magnet for the city with diverse programming ranging from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary readings, dramatic and dance presentations, and a full spectrum of programs designed to engage people of all ages with the power and excitement of art.

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